I can’t resist the way that snow looks contrasted with Giant Sequoias, so I headed up to Merced Grove for a half day. Yosemite National Park has 3 Giant Sequoia Groves and some say that Merced Grove is the least visited. It was a very nice hike down the historic Old Coulterville Road to check out the 20 or so Giant Sequoias in this grove.
Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 3.68 but you can go farther
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 5,310’ – 5,905’
Date: November 11, 2020
Map: Ackerson Mountain, Buckingham Mountain Topographic Quads
Dog Hike? No
I headed up Hwy 140 to Big Oak Flat Road, then a little over 4 miles northwest of the Crane Flat Gas Station/intersection of Tioga Road to the marked parking area on the left side of the road. The road had been a bit icy in spots but I took my time. It was 34 degrees when I parked my car, the only vehicle in the parking lot. Restrooms, bear boxes and trash receptacles are located at this trailhead. I headed up the trail, which is the Old Coulterville Road. This area is filled with tons of history and interesting stories. If you are reading more, you can check out some of my blogs of this area linked at the end.
The Merced Grove has been “discovered” and “lost” several times. I am sure that the Native Americans who lived and visited this area knew of the Merced Grove so it is a little strange that to me that history books say that the Walker party discovered Merced Grove in 1833, who also discovered Yosemite Valley. The location of Merced Grove was subsequently misplaced (perhaps the most believable part of its history) and rediscovered again in 1858, but apparently soon lost once more, because in 1871 a party surveying for the old Coulterville Road, which passed nearby (the first part of the trail is, in fact, this road), announced the discovery of this same grove of giant trees, which it named the Merced Grove for its proximity to the Merced River. The name Merced (mercy) is the shortened form of the Spanish name for the river, “El Rio de las Mercedes”, or is sometimes given as “Nuestra Senora de la Merced.” It was named by Gabriel Moraga in 1806.
Although I was hiking by myself, friendly snowmen greeted me along the way.
After about 7/10ths of a mile, I reached an intersection and headed toward the Merced Grove. The trail/road had been fairly level and nicely maintained, easy walking, and could be utilized by someone with mobility issues if snow wasn’t on it. But that changed a bit as I headed down the next stretch down to the Merced Grove, which would lose about 400′ of elevation in the next mile and the road had some icy spots that I needed to watch for.
The snow was decorated with nature’s leaf art.
I had been wondering if the dogwoods would still have any fall colored red leaves and they still had a few on the trees.
Dogwoods weren’t the only fall colored leaves though. Boy oh boy, how pretty are these golden colored oaks against the white snow?
How about some more leaf art?
It is so hard to capture an entire Giant Sequoia in this grove.
There are split rail fences around the Giant Sequoias along the road to keep traffic off of their tender root system.
Snow still hung next to the stumps.
The road led me by the old Merced Grove Ranger Station. This building replaced the first ranger station in Merced Grove, which was a 1915 checking station on the Old Coulterville Road, now long gone. The current building was designed by the National Park Service and completed in July of 1935. The building consists of a living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Outside and up a hill to the north of the cabin are 2 small outhouses. The structure was employed for a time as a summer retreat for Yosemite park superintendents.
I continued down the road a little bit past the Merced Grove and old Ranger Station then turned around, heading back the same way I came in.
In addition to the dogwoods, there are many wild Azaleas. I think the spring would be a very pretty time of year to visit this area to view those blooms and I bet there are other wildflowers to see. If I had visited a little earlier in the fall, this area could be full of dogwood color. You can also go farther down the road than I did, crossing the creek and looping back on the Moss Canyon Truck Trail, maybe 12-ish miles total but I wasn’t up to that in the snow on this visit.
This isn’t the kind of hike where you will be all alone on the trail. Since it is so accessible and fairly easy, people tend to make a stop here as they enter Yosemite National Park from the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station. Also, it is totally doable to visit Merced and Tuolumne Groves in one day so that is an idea for you to try out.
If you want to visit other Giant Sequoia Groves, don’t forget about Nelder Grove, just outside of Yosemite but close by out of Oakhurst off of Sky Ranch Road.
Dog Hike? No
Dogs are not allowed on the Merced Grove Trail.
Where Pets Are Not Allowed
- On trails, including the trail to Vernal Fall (however, pets are allowed on the Wawona Meadow Loop)
- On unplowed roads covered in snow
- In undeveloped and wilderness areas
- In public buildings
- On shuttle buses
- In lodging areas
- In all walk-in and group campgrounds/campsites, including Camp 4
- In any other areas, as signed
These regulations protect both pets and wildlife from disease and each other. The National Park Service has prohibited pets on trails for many years. In particular, some pets chase wildlife, pollute water sources, and can become defensive and dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings. Pet owners have the burden to assure their pet does not damage the park values for others in those areas where pets are allowed.
Yosemite Hospitality operates a dog kennel in Yosemite Valley from approximately late May through early September. Written proof of immunizations (rabies, distemper, parvo, and Bordetella) must be provided. Dogs must be at least 20 pounds (smaller dogs may be considered if you provide a small kennel). You can get more information about the kennel by calling 209/372-8326.
What is a Doarama? It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.
Maps and Profile:
Browning, Peter, Yosemite Place Names: The History of Geographic Names in Yosemite National Park
Hartesveldt, Richard J., Yosemite Valley Place Names (1955)
Prior Blogs in this Area: